A Big Announcement! & The Mechanics of Eating for Straight Teeth: Part I

23 Mar
cat in bag

Jersey the cat

So, first up, an announcement!  I’m letting the cat out of the bag… The Paleo Hygienist is pregnant!  This is our first little one and I’m currently 7 1/2 months along.  We’re expecting in early-mid May 2014!  So if the blog goes extremely quiet this Summer, you’ll know why :)

If you’ve been reading my blog over the past year or so, you may have noticed that many of my articles discuss how paleo/primitive nutrition and specific nutrients (the fat-soluble vitamins A, D & K2) are vital to proper development of humans, and that to produce an optimally developed child, mindful nutrition matters for BOTH parents before conception, for the mother during pregnancy, and continuing on into childhood with the nutrition the child receives.  I began researching and reading all of this information about a year before my husband and I were planning to get pregnant, so it really resonated with me.  I thought the information was so important that I wanted to help spread the word any way I could…thus my blog was born!

My absolute favorite article I’ve written to date was my 2-part series on the role of nutrition on jaw/palate/facial development and how we could increase the chances of straight teeth (and avoiding braces) in our children.

Can What You Eat Now Keep Your Future Kids Out of Braces: Part I

Can What You Eat Now Keep Your Future Kids Out of Braces: Part II

I guess we could call this post “Part III”  because while proper pre-conception and prenatal nutrition lay the foundation for our children to have straight teeth, there is another important factor…mechanical stimulation.

Pregnant women read everything!  And one of the biggest topics we read about is breastfeeding.  Most articles and books focus on the nutrition benefits of breastfeeding our babies, but did you know that the mechanics of breastfeeding also play an important role in jaw, palate and facial formation of our children which, along with nutrition, positively impact our children’s chances of having straight teeth?!  And seriously…does it get any more Paleo than breastfeeding?!

Our food provides us with nutrition, but it does serve another purpose, and that comes in HOW we obtain this nutrition, or in simpler terms: HOW WE EAT.  Food provides us with the necessary mechanical stimulation of our jaw, palate, ligaments, and muscles to develop properly thus giving us enough room in our dental arch for all of our teeth to align correctly.  Our primitive ancestors had no need for orthodontists and braces or oral surgeons to remove impacted wisdom teeth; today nearly every teenager visits at least one of these doctors.


Photo credit: Better Breastfeeding, InJoy Productions, Inc. 2011

For an infant, breastfeeding provides optimal oral mechanical stimulation compared to a bottle.  A baby “sucks” on a bottle, however, when a baby breastfeeds with a proper latch on the breast something much different happens. For anyone that has ever read a breastfeeding book, taken a breastfeeding class or received instruction from a lactation consultant, you know that a deep latch is best rather than a shallow latch where the baby is sucking on the nipple, which can be quite painful for mom!  With a deep latch, the baby opens wide and takes in enough breast so that it is pressing up against his/her palate.  The baby does not merely “suck” the milk out, but instead uses his/her tongue in a curved U-shape on the breast and in a wave-like motion “milks” the breast to receive milk.  This very rhythmic action of the tongue “milking” the breast presses on the palate, and the subsequent swallowing together play a role in proper stimulation and development of the dental arches, palate, jaw and muscles.

When we compare bottle-feeding to breastfeeding it is easy to see that the nipple on a bottle is a standard shape and size and does not fill or conform to baby’s palate, and therefore does not stimulate any widening of the palate to ensure room for all the teeth in the future.  Greater suction forces are required during bottle-feeding than breastfeeding.  This forceful action causes the cheeks to draw in, putting pressure on the gums and teeth, affecting the position of the teeth.  As baby grows, the breast continues to conform to the baby’s mouth, whereas the bottle nipple remains constant and does not adapt to the growing mouth of a growing child.

So great, you’re breastfeeding, but there are still so many factors and questions to consider…  How often should you breastfeed?  On demand for a few minutes at each feeding?  Every few hours with feedings lasting 20-30 minutes?  How long should you breastfeed?  6 months?  1 year?  Up to age 2?  Up to age 4 or 5?  The truth is, we don’t really know.  If we think of the mechanical stimulation received by breastfeeding and compare that to exercise, it’s understandable that human development and adaptation will be different between one human that sits at a desk all day and hits the gym for 1 hour vs. the human that may not necessarily “workout” by society’s current definition, but rather incorporates movement in small doses throughout their day by limiting sitting, walking, squatting to pick up objects, etc.  If we look at Hunter-Gatherer populations, they followed a more on-demand breastfeeding pattern feeding for a few minutes several times per hour as the child dictated, and while other foods entered the child’s diet, breastfeeding was still part of their nutrition until 4-5 years of age.  Of course, for Hunter-Gatherer populations, food was much more scarce than it is for us today, so breastfeeding for many years helped ensure survival of their children.  My advice…  do what works for you, your baby and your family.  Not everyone can breastfeed on demand, and not even every woman has success with breastfeeding and must bottle-feed.  Some mothers want to breastfeed their children beyond 1 year, but the child becomes uninterested and self-weens.  Again I say, do what works for you, your baby and your family.  And when it comes time to start introducing solid foods, there are factors to consider there as well, but that’s for my next post… Stay tuned!

Want more info?  Check out these great sources:

The Influence of Breastfeeding on the Oral Cavity: A Commentary

Hunter-Gatherer Childhoods: Evolutionary, Developmental & Cultural Perspectives

Finally! A Natural Toothpaste I LOVE!

6 Feb

With all the extra additives and chemicals in our world, many people are reducing their exposure by opting for more natural health and beauty products.  I’ve been swapping out beauty products and choosing shampoos, conditioners and soaps that are paraben-free or free of SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate).  The shampoo/conditioner I buy even says it’s gluten-free!  Man, that stuff is everywhere!  But one product I’ve had trouble replacing with a more natural alternative is toothpaste.  I’ve tried several brands on the market today that you can find in health food stores, but I kept running into the same problems; I hated the taste, or it left a funky aftertaste, or it just didn’t leave my mouth feeling clean and fresh.

doTERRA On Guard Natural Whitening Toothpaste

doTERRA On Guard Natural Whitening Toothpaste

Well, I recently had the chance to try doTerra’s On Guard Natural Whitening Toothpaste…and I LOVED IT!!!  It’s paraben-free, SLS-free and fluoride-free for those that want that too!  But more importantly…I LOVE THE TASTE!  The flavor is a light and refreshing cinnamon-clove.  The best way I can describe it is you know that cinnamon clove tea you’ll find around the holidays?  Sometimes little specialty Christmas stores will have some brewed and serve it to customers.  It reminds me of that!  And for those of you (like my husband and I) that have issues with gum irritation from cinnamon toothpastes, you need not worry.  We have had no problems with gum irritation with this toothpaste, whereas in the past using a conventional cinnamon toothpaste for 2 days made my gums red and feeling raw/sore.

doTerra is an essential oil company.  This toothpaste is not found in stores but you can order it from your doTERRA rep…and if you don’t have a doTERRA rep, you can order it from mine here.

doTERRA On Guard Natural Whitening Toothpaste ingredients: Glycerin, Water, Hydrated Silica, Hydroxyapatite, Xylitol, Calcium Carbonate, Cellulose Gum, Mentha piperita (Peppermint) Essential Oil, Citrus sinensis (Wild Orange) Essential Oil, Eugenia caryophyllata (Clovebud) Essential Oil, Cinnamomum zeylancum (Cinnamon Bark) Essential Oil, Eucalyptus radiate (Eucalyptus) Essential Oil, Rosemarinus officinalis (Rosemary) Essential Oil, Stevia rebaudiana (Stevia) Extract, Gualtheria procumbens (Wintergreen) Essential Oil, Commiphora myrrha (Myrrh) Essential Oil, Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate, Carrageenen, Titanium Dioxide.

How Do You Sit? Is There a “Right” Way to Sit?

20 Jan

Living a modern paleo lifestyle is not just about nutrition, it’s also about how we move.  In our modern society, we have developed a lot of conveniences that have reduced the amount of movement in our day, and many of us have jobs where we sit for hours.  Sitting has been getting a lot of negative attention lately.  Some even think that sitting is so detrimental to our health that they’re labeling it “the new smoking”.  Sure, common sense tells us that too much sitting isn’t good for our health, but I don’t think we need to be so dramatic.  We need to be realistic because, for many of us, sitting is a part of our day, so instead we should learn how to manage our sitting.

© Dana Rothstein | Dreamstime Stock Photos

© Dana Rothstein | Dreamstime Stock Photos

I think a lot about how I sit at work, and I recently came across this video by Dr. Ryan DeBell that asked the question, “Is there a perfect sitting position?”, which made me feel a lot better about the way I (what I like to call) “actively” sit during my workday.  (The video is a short 4 minutes…and try to ignore that he’s slouching in his chair most of the time.)

In the dental profession we spend a good portion of our day sitting, most people do at work.  However, I feel fortunate that there is quite a bit of movement in my workday compared to a typical office job.  Many people in offices that work on computers sit at their desk from 9am to lunchtime, they then go to the lunchroom or to a restaurant and sit to eat, and then return to their desk an hour later to sit until quitting time at 5pm.  For hygienists, we typically sit for about 45 minutes while actually working on our patient, but then we’re up walking our patient back up to the front office, cleaning the room and setting it back up for the next patient.  If I’m reaching for something in a lower cabinet, I often will lower myself to a full squat rather than always bending down at the hips and putting strain on my back.  But, we are still sitting much of the day.

During my dental hygiene education we had quite a bit of focus on ergonomics and were taught to try keep our back and neck in a fixed, straight posture most of the time…but is this really best?  If you are a right-handed clinician you are taught to work on the patient from two positions around them: sitting behind their head and sitting facing the right side of their head.  We were taught, for example, that if we were working on cleaning the lingual (tongue-side) surfaces of the lower right molars, we should sit facing the right side of the patient’s head and use our mirror to view this side of the teeth.  This is called using “indirect vision”.  Again, is this really best?  I always found this a bit awkward and didn’t feel like my hands were very skilled/efficient from that location (maybe I just needed more practice), so I often found myself naturally moving all the way over so I was nearly sitting in front of the patient’s left side and using “direct vision” to see the lingual side of the lower right molars.  Some instructors told me it was fine to move around to the other side of the patient, others asked me why I wasn’t using my mirror.  I was asked the same question from a dentist I worked for years back when they walked by my room and saw me sitting on the patient’s left.  My answer, “I like to move around.”

According to the video above, this is a good thing.  If we’re going to be sitting for a substantial period of time we should be shifting our positioning around, according to Dr. DeBell, at least every 2o minutes.  The body was never meant to remain in a fixed position for long periods of time (outside of sleeping); we’re meant to move.  I follow the same order for every patient I see, I think most hygienists do.  Some hygienists work on all the top teeth first then move to the bottom teeth, some clean the right side first then the left, some start on the lower front teeth (since they typically have the most tartar buildup on them) then move on to the rest, or I have seen other hygienists work on all the teeth surfaces that are best accessed from sitting to the patient’s right, then sit behind the patient and complete all the remaining surfaces.  My personal routine is as follows:

  • Sitting to the patient’s right, I begin with the buccal (cheek-side) of the UR molars.
  • I then move to behind the patient’s head and complete the facial surfaces of the upper front teeth, then the lingual sides of the upper front teeth best accessed here.
  • I move back to the patient’s right and complete the other sides of the linguals of the upper front teeth, then move to the UR lingual surfaces.  I then complete the buccal and lingual surfaces of the UL.
  • Staying on the patient’s right I move on the buccal surfaces of the LR.
  • I move to nearly the left side of the patient and complete the lingual surfaces of the LR.  I then complete the buccal of the LL.
  • I move back to the patient’s right and complete the linguals of the LL.
  • I move to behind the patient and work on the sides of the teeth best accessed from here on the lingal and facial sides of the lower front teeth, then move back to the patient’s right and complete the remaining sides of these teeth on the lingual and facial sides.  I stay on this side to polish and floss as well.

Whew!  That’s a lot of moving around!  But this works great for me and keeps my back and neck from being in the same position for very long.  Depending on the patient, I’m moving to a different position about every 2-10 minutes.  I may stay in one position a bit longer if I’m working on a more difficult case where I have to instrument on particular teeth for much longer, but those patients are occasional, so most of the time I’m changing positions quite often.  And when I’m sitting elsewhere?  I try to counteract all that chair time at work with “active” sitting positions at home.  Sit in the full squat position (which is how primitive cultures often sat before the invention of chairs) or sit on the floor in various positions.  You’d be surprised how many muscles you activate from the action of getting up off the floor.  It’s actually beneficial to do this daily so the task of getting up (whether off the floor, out of a chair, out of bed, out of the car, etc.) remains an easy task into your later years.  Of course, the best way to counteract all that sitting is to WALK..as much as possible!

So I’m curious… If you’re a hygienist, what routine do you follow?  Do you stay to the patient’s right and behind the patient?  Do you ever move to the patient’s left?  And if you’re not a hygienist, do you try to get up from your desk at regular intervals to avoid prolonged sitting?

…on that note, I’m going for a walk :)

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